Israeli Strikes in Rafah Heighten Gaza Conflict

Israeli Strikes in Rafah Heighten Gaza Conflict

Israeli forces conducted airstrikes in Rafah on Thursday, according to Palestinian residents, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed U.S. President Joe Biden's threat to withhold weapons from Israel if it attacked the southern Gaza city.

A senior Israeli official announced on Thursday night that the latest round of indirect negotiations in Cairo to halt hostilities in Gaza had concluded, and Israel would proceed with its planned operations in Rafah and other areas of the Gaza Strip. Israel has communicated its concerns about a proposed hostage release deal by Hamas to mediators.

Netanyahu, in a video statement, affirmed Israel's readiness to defend itself, stating, "If we must, we shall fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than our fingernails."

In response, Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad reported firing anti-tank rockets and mortars at Israeli tanks on the eastern outskirts of Rafah. Residents and medics in Rafah said an Israeli attack near a mosque resulted in casualties, with video footage showing significant damage.

Another Israeli airstrike in Rafah's Sabra neighborhood reportedly killed at least 12 people, including women and children, along with a senior commander of the militant Al-Mujahedeen Brigades and his family.

Israel alleges that Hamas militants are using Rafah as a hiding place, with the local population increasing due to Gazans seeking refuge from widespread bombardment in the coastal enclave.

The White House expressed hope that Israel would not launch a full operation in Rafah, emphasizing that such action would not contribute to Israel's goal of defeating Hamas. The U.S. reiterated its concerns about civilian casualties and suggested alternative approaches to targeting Hamas leadership.

According to the Gaza health ministry, Israeli assaults have resulted in a significant number of casualties, including civilians. The offensive was initiated in response to a Hamas cross-border attack on Israel, which resulted in casualties and hostage-taking.

President Biden recently warned against a full ground invasion of Rafah, linking the supply of weapons to Israel with its military actions in the region.

In Cairo, talks involving Hamas, Israel, the U.S., Egypt, and Qatar made some progress but did not reach a ceasefire agreement. Hamas insists that Israel is to blame for the lack of a deal and reiterates its commitment to a ceasefire proposal.

Meanwhile, the medical sector in Gaza is reportedly collapsing due to ongoing conflict, preventing the evacuation of the wounded and the entry of essential medical supplies and aid.

The situation remains tense, with continued military actions and diplomatic efforts underway to resolve the conflict in Gaza.

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